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BHAGIRATHA

The Duty of the Descendants

Many days passed, but the sons did not return. Emperor Sagara was again very worried. He had already performed the preliminary rites for the sacrifice. So he himself could not go in search of the horse. He sent for his grandson Amshumanta and said, 'Dear child, your sixty thousand uncles who went in search of the horse have not come back till this day. Please go and find them and the horse also. You must be careful and judge wisely. Come back with success.' He sent his grandson with his blessings.

Amshumanta started with the army, as instructed by his grandfather. He was unable to find the horse on the earth though he roamed far and wide. He finally entered Patala through the hole dug by his uncles. As he was wandering there, his eyes fell upon Sage Kapila's Ashrama and the ashes piled up like a mountain. The horse was grazing at a distance. There was no road ahead.

He was a little frightened. There was no way beyond and there was such a huge pile of ash. What could have happened? He was deep in thought. Just then he heard a voice from Heaven -'Child, this is the pile of ashes of your uncles. They were destroyed by the wrath of Sage Kapila.' Amshumanta felt very sad on hearing this. He decided to perform the funeral rites for them so that the souls of the dead might attain salvation. But though he searched everywhere for water, there was none. He did not know what to do and was worried. Just then he saw Garuda in the sky. As you know, Garuda is the big eagle. He is Lord Vishnu's favourite, on whose back the Lord flies whenever He wants to go anywhere. Garuda addressed Amshumanta:

'Royal prince, do not worry. There have died for -the good of the world. They ended thus here, suse of the curse of a sage. Their souls cannot go heaven by the ordinary funeral rites. They can get salvation only when the divine Ganga is brought from Heaven and made to flow on this pile of their ashes. Yet, first take back this horse to your grandfather.'

Amshumanta had no other way either. So he returned to Ayodhya with the horse and delivered him to his grandfather. Though Sagara felt happy on seeing the horse, he felt very sad on hearing that all of his brave and strong sons had died at once. But since he had already performed the preliminary ceremonies for Ashwamedha, he controlled his sorrow, and performed the sacrifice in the prescribed way.

But until the divine Ganga was brought down from Heaven, his sone could not attain salvation. This thought continued to worry him. Finally, becoming desperate, he left his kingdom to his grandson Amshumanta, saying, 'The task of seeing that your uncles attain salvation is yours.' Sagara then went to the forest to perform 'Tapas'.

"Though he became the king, Amshumanta never thought of his personal happiness. He was always thinking of the task he had to perform - he had to bring the divine Ganga, according to his grandfather's command. As he could not think of any solution, after some years, he also made over his kingdom to his son Dilipa."

Bhagiratha's mother, who was telling him the story, continued:

"That same king Dilipa was your father. He too was always thinking about the means of bringing Ganga from Heaven. He had also another worry, as he had no children. At least, guided by our kind preceptor, the sage Vasishtha, we worshipped the sacred cow Nandini in his hermitage. She blessed us and you were born. But your father was worried that he could not bring Ganga and help his grandfathers attain salvation. He passed away while you were still young.

"This, dear son, is the story of your race. And also the answer to your question. You have now heard all. And now let us see what you will do."

Having said this, Bhagiratha's mother gazed at her son, curious and eager to hear what he would say.

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The flame of anger shot forth from the Maharshi's eyes
About Bhagiratha
Introduction
"Who Was Sagara?"
'I Do Not Want A Son Who Plagues the People'
Behind The Horse - To The House Of Death
You are Here! The Duty Of The Descendants
Answering The Call Of Duty
Bhagiratha's Tapas
Taming The Ganga
The Earth Smiles
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